After the jury deadlocked in the trial of Charles Cora and the outrage voiced by James King of William in the Evening Bulletin, there existed a general feeling that no man’s life was secure in San Francisco nor was there safety under the law anywhere in California. Only a few weeks before the assassination of William Richardson two other prominent men, Isaac B. Wall, in 1853 speaker of the California assembly and then collector of Monterey County, and T.S. Williamson, assessor of Monterey County, had been fiercely murdered on a road beside the Salinas River. There was little likelihood of finding, and even less of trying and convicting, the killers. Then, in May of 1856, Hugh C. Murray, Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, publicly assaulted a man in the streets of Sacramento with his cane. The victim had purportedly said that Murray was the meanest man to ever sit on a Supreme Court bench.
In spite of the clear danger to himself, King continued his attacks and the rage of the public was not allowed to subside. If he was not already, King became a power in the land and the Bulletin the more widely read and most feared of all other papers combined. And it was generally supposed that those to whom King turned his wrath had various plans to muzzle him and destroy the influence of the Bulletin. Many felt there was a deliberate conspiracy to kill him, as the paper could be stopped in no other way. To that end King not only carried a pistol but also practiced with it daily, and gave notice in his newspaper that he did so. And when the attack finally came, although totally unexpected by King, many men were certain that several people knew of it beforehand, among them Edward McGowan and Peter Wrightman even though there was never proof of a conspiracy or evidence they were accessories before the fact.